On the eve of national elections here in the US, I find myself preparing not for an outcome, but for a process that may take a while for us to work through.
There is something called the Stockdale Paradox that you might find to be of help in the days, weeks, and perhaps months ahead. In the words of Admiral Stockdale, who spent more than 7 years as a POW in the Vietnam War:
“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end–which you can never afford to lose–with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
To me, this is no paradox, but rather a bringing two different forms of wisdom together to create a more complete picture.
2020 is the year of perfect vision. One of its lessons is that it takes two eyes, or two modes of seeing, to truly behold reality. We are to have faith in the generous, wise, and democratic soul of our nation and the discipline to oppose unjust social systems and address hatred and brutality in both our communities and nation.
When asked who did not survive the experience of being held as prisoners-of-war, Admiral Stockdale replied:
“The optimists. [The]…ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.” And Christmas would come and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.” And Easter would come and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart….”
How did Admiral Stockdale make it through?
“I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”
These trying times, pandemic and election alike may prove to be the defining events of our lives, something we wouldn’t trade many years from now. Let us cling not to any particular date, but cleave instead to the sacred process in which we are engaged as a people.
We are in the midst of a collective birthing process. Births, by their very nature, are messy, unpredictable, dangerous, bloody–and beautiful.
In the days of labor ahead, be prepared to ride the contractions. Remember to breathe, drink water, and surround yourself with supportive allies and aunties. But most of all, take heart in the larger picture at work here.
Let us stay disciplined and real about the dangers we face and never doubt that “we the people” will prevail with our participation and effort.
Be well and raise hell, y’all.
You are invited to join us for a free online journey circle this Wednesday, October 4, at 4 pm PST. Open to all skill levels. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.